Natural or synthetic nutrients?

There are many debates over the years whether synthetic nutrients have the same benefits compared to natural nutrients and this article will explore into detail of why we should consume nutrients in its natural form and not synthetic.

Natural nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids are obtained from the whole food sources whereas synthetic nutrients are created artificially in a lab where the chemical compounds are made to mimic the way natural nutrients supposed to work in our bodies.

Synthetic vitamins are not in their natural form as they are created in facilities by manipulating the chemicals where the materials used can range from petroleum, coal or acetylene gas to replicate the structure of the isolated nutrient. However, they do not have the identical chemical structure of the natural nutrient. Synthetic vitamins or nutrients are isolated and they do not contain trace minerals, co-factors and enzymes which can be found in natural nutrients which allow our bodies to digest and unleash the full benefits of consuming the nutrients in its purest form. There are many studies to demonstrate that isolated nutrients are not recognised by our body and thus are not being utilised the same way as natural nutrients.

Human bodies are made to thrive by absorbing the nutrients in its purest form. There are many studies in the recent years into synthetic vitamins which support that basis of synthetic vitamins cause more harm than good to our human bodies. The most widely known supplement, ascorbic acid (synthetic vitamin C) where the research concludes that ascorbic acid could devastate the muscle and cause loss of endurance among the frequent workout practitioners. Due to the different molecule structure of ascorbic acid is fundamentally different compared to natural vitamin C, our bodies do not recognise it and often time deemed it as a foreign object to be expelled from our bodies which causes extra burden to our bodies to excrete it.

Apart from ascorbic acid, there are also other studies to show that human body will only absorb the molecules from natural vitamin E and is retained longer in the body compared to synthetic vitamin E. Synthetic vitamin E comprises of eight equal alpha-tocopherol stereoisomers and among the 8 isomers, only one of them is identical to natural vitamin E. Therefore, in order to compensate for the inferiority of the bioavailability of synthetic vitamin E, we have to consume twice as much of synthetic vitamin E compared to natural vitamin E. The recent studies demonstrate that synthetic vitamin E created petrochemically will pose more danger to our health as it will increase the risk of prostate cancer. The process in creating the synthetic nutrients might contain solvent or chemicals that are harmful for human body if consumed over the long term.

Synthetic nutrients contain high concentration of chemical that mimic natural nutrients and often time our bodies do not need to consume that much of nutrients. The latter poses an issue where some synthetic nutrients are not excreted immediately and they will be stored in the liver which over the long term are toxic, especially for fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A,D,E and K. These vitamins require fatty acids to metabolise which are absent in the synthetic version. Natural nutrients on the other hand contain cofactors which help our bodies to metabolise and excrete the excess nutrients.

In conclusion, human body requires nutrients for maintenance of health and to survive. However, in order to ensure our bodies are receiving the right nutrients, we should go back to the basic of consuming the nutrients that are derived from the natural food sources and not through chemically modified nutrients. There is no conclusive research to prove that synthetically created nutrients bring more benefits to health in comparison to natural nutrients especially our human bodies are able to survive and adapt through many centuries by receiving the nutrients from the original food sources. Therefore, it is vital that in today’s world, consumers who purchase natural supplements need to be aware of the ingredients used in the supplements are food sources and not synthetically created.

How do you identify synthetic nutrients for natural supplement in the market, don’t fall for disclaimer of “natural”?

Majority of the supplements in the market are synthetic nutrients and thus it is imperative to identify which nutrients are made artificially. The rule of thumb to differentiate natural supplements over synthetic supplements is to check the ingredients on the label. Natural supplements will list the whole food sources as the ingredient whereas synthetic supplements will list the isolated nutrients or by using chemical names such as Cholecalciferol or Irradiated Ergosteral (Vitamin D), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), DL-alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E) and etc.

Another important factor to check the label is to ensure that the ingredients used are 100% wholefood ingredients. A true natural supplement is made from freeze dried whole food but unfortunately there are many wholefood supplements in the market are created with very high heat which destroy the nutrients in the wholefood. In order to substitute for the loss of nutrients, synthetic nutrients are added into the supplement.

Popular food sources for key nutrients:

Vitamin A –Beef liver, cod liver oil, carrots, sweet potato, kale, red bell peppers

Vitamin B – Salmon, leafy greens, eggs, legumes, milk, beef

Vitamin C – Seabuckthorn fruit, acelora berries, blackcurrants, guavas, strawberries, oranges

Vitamin D – Portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, salmon, trout, sardines

Vitamin E – Sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, spinach, peanut butter, kiwi, hazelnuts

Vitamin K – Kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, kiwi

Omega 3 – chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines

Lycopene – Tomatoes, guavas, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red bell peppers

Magnesium – Dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, tuna, brown rice

Iron – Beef, shellfish, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, quinoa, cocoa powder,

Zinc –Oysters, beef, lentils, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, firm tofu, shiitake mushroom


Written by Maeraki team